Distractions from the new normal

Inspiring events and generous acts in a quarantined NYC


Bask in the pride of the #BestNYAccent challenge, and take your mind off the monotonous new normal.

Hi everybody, and welcome to another dispatch from lockdown, as we head into what is unbelievably Week 5 of this thing that has happened to us that no one has any reference point for or answers to the most basic questions about. The bad news about illness, death, unemployment, mental health, and the disparate burden borne by the poor and people of color continues apace, and it’s hard to even feel good about signs that the infection rate is leveling off in New York. That tiny glint of hope feels impossibly fragile when it’s in the undexterous hands of the craven politicians and profligate billionaires whose cruelty, selfishness, and astounding incompetence put us in this mess in the first place. Even if you’re lucky enough to count yourself and the people you care most about among the healthy and solvent, the anxiety about what lies ahead is still debilitating, and the cheerless monotony of having the same conversations about how you are “holding up” in “the new normal” over and over again is verging on unbearable. This NYT piece about the #BestNYAccent Instagram challenge got my attention this morning because it made me feel something else—a congratulatory crow of pride in New Yorkers’ divergence and defiance and liberal use of F-bombs. Summarizing the videos, Jon Caramanica writes, “There’s a baseline indignation to the talk, as if the speaker can’t quite believe there’s even a need to have the conversation. That comes with a splash of defensiveness—the desire to protect this unavoidable, immutable and generally unselfconscious presentation that signals a whole way of life.” I loved reading that. 

I’ll be real with you: I feel like a bit of a fraud recommending books or virtual events or TV shows right now because my own ability to concentrate on one thing for more than 5 minutes continues to escape me. That said, if I can somehow reinvoke the enthusiasm for arts and cultural activities that used to be my lifeblood in the next week or so, there are more than a few things happening over the next few days that look like a worthy distraction. Tonight at 8pm,Today at 3pm you can cap off another crushing week by joining Swedish pop icon Robyn for a live DJ set and dance party. (We apologize to readers for misstating the time earlier, but since it’s on Facebook live you can always watch when you’re ready to dance on your own!) You can also tune in to the 92nd Street Y’s feed at 5pm to hear Miranda July discuss her eponymous book and the upcoming release of her new film, Kajillionaire, with Entertainment Weekly’s David Canfield. The popular Hester Street Fair is going virtual starting this Saturday, when you can also join Elton John, Lizzo, all the late night hosts and more for One World: Together At Home, the massive fundraiser for COVID-19 frontline health workers organized by Lady Gaga. Saturday night, you can tune in for a special Tommy Boy screening party in honor of Brian Dennehy, who died earlier this week (from a heart attack).  

Monday is 4/20, and the popular Brooklyn Takedowns home cook competition is going virtual with, naturally, a Munchies Takedownall you have to do to participate is send in photos or videos of your creations by 7pm. Meanwhile, absolute legend Willie Nelson is doing his part and hosting a 4-hour-and-20-minute-long cannabis-centric variety show called Come and Toke It. There will also be opportunities to celebrate Earth Day on Wednesday from the safety of your own home—check out these events planned by Prospect Park and Fort Greene Park. You can also watch daily live feeds from the Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium. I’ve personally never felt that there is enough penguin in my life, and there’s no time it would be more helpful than now. 

The Met has made it possible to view its much-anticipated Gerhard Richter exhibit online, and I love the idea of Pictures for Elmhurst, an online print sale of beautiful photographs to raise money for Elmhurst Hospital.

If you’re looking for other ways to help out, consider volunteering with the Department for the Aging to reach out to older New Yorkers who need to hear a friendly voice over the phone by calling 212.AGING.NYC, or think about buying food from one of the many local restaurants which have nimbly pivoted to grocery sales in an attempt to keep things going. 

That’s all for now, but please keep writing us and letting us know the content you’d like to see and businesses and causes you’d like us to promote. Most of all, please continue to take care of yourselves, physically and mentally, and do something kind for yourself this weekend—you deserve it! Hang in there everyone, and thanks for staying home as much as you can to keep yourselves and your neighbors safe. 

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